Russian Imperial Stout have become one of, if not my favorite beer. Back in 1600’s, Peter the Great fell in love with stout on a trip to England, and is thought to be the first to insist the import of stout from England to Russia. Much to the embarrassment of the English the stout spoiled on the tedious voyage between countries. Thus the Russian Imperial Stout was born, more out of necessity like the IPA, extra grains and hops ensured a stronger, robust beer than could handle the long journey. The Russian Imperial Court loved the stronger version of stout, seemingly none more so than Empress Catherine II who ordered loads of the bold dark beer. With such a backing the Imperial Stout cemented its place in history. This beast of a beer fell out of favour early in the 20th century, then bounced back with the American craft beer movement. There’s so many great Imperial Stouts out there, but one you should try as a brewer is- Courage Russian Imperial Stout, mainly because it’s as close as you can get to the original. Although the brewery has changed hands….Courage claims this is the original recipe brewed for Catherine the Great in 1795…smooth, silky, complex, delicious!
Enough history! The recipe I’m giving you is an award winning recipe, downsized, and adjusted with brewer’s friend to 5L. Now is the prefect time to think about brewing Imperial Stout, as they improve with age, and you’ll have something special to crack open in winter. This recipe is great for adding your own twist, if you want to see the original or make a standard size batch…Alexander the blessed
Russian Imperial Stout 5 Litres
OG- 1.106 FG- 1.024 IBU’s- 75 ABV- 10.8%
Marris Otter Pale Malt- 1.6kg
Munich Malt- 245g
Dark Chocolate Malt- 113g
Chocolate Wheat (Rye if available) Malt- 117g
Flaked Oats- 86g
Dark Crystal- 46g
Roasted Barley- 50g
California Ale (Whitelabs #WLP001) this was my first time using a liquid yeast, its good stuff!
1) Take the yeast out if the fridge so it can begin warming to room temperature.
2) Mash- in 6 litres water @63° for 65 minutes. I use a 10L pot and it just fits the grains and water. I also use the oven mash method to keep temperature.
3) Mash Out- heat the mash up to 75°, keep at temperature for 10 mins. Prepare your dunk sparge water (3 litres of water @75°)
4) Dunk Sparge- remove the grains and let the liquid drain for a minute or two. Then dunk the grains like a tea bag in the sparge water. Let the grains go completely underwater and move the bag around in-between dunking, your trying to wash all those valuable last sugars of the grains. I usually submerg, then pull out and drain the liquid 4-5 times. The last time you drain gently squeeze the bag to get as much liquid as you can… don’t squeeze too hard tough. Think of it as wanting to get the liquid out without damaging the grains.. discard grains.
5) Boil- Combine both liquids into your preferred boiling pot and bring to boil, start timer for 90 minutes once boil is achieved. Add all the hops @60 minutes (30 minutes after the boil starts). Have a taste along the way, if it’s your first Imperial Stout, it’s bound to be one of the sweetest, stickiest worts you’ve ever seen! If you pot has a measurement scale, top up the wort with water to around 4.8 litres 5 minutes before the end of the boil, I find I usually need around 500ml, you could also top up once your wort in in the carboy. After the boil has finished cool the wort to approximately 23 degrees.
6) Once your wort is cooled and in the carboy, top up with water if you didn’t do so in the boil, but leave a decent amount of head space, take your sample for OG reading.
7) Yeast- add the yeast to your wort, just cut the top of the packet with clean scissors and squeeze the entire packet in. It may seem like alot of yeast but, but it’s necessary for this bad ass beer. Shake the carboy for at least 2 minutes allowing air in every 20-30 seconds.
8) Fermentation- @20 degrees for 25 days. After 1 day give the carboy another quick 4 or 5 shakes to aerate again, but be careful! Do the first shake slowly turning the carboy upside-down them upright them let in some air, it can initially be very temperamental and fizz up quickly with the yeast already releasing alot of CO2.
Water- I’ve both read and been told water profile, especially pH, can be an important factor for Imperial Stouts. Before brewing this recipe for the first time I had conflicting advice on how to adjust the water, so I didn’t bother, I’ve brewed this recipe 3 times now without any off tastes, I used Sydney water, and boiled any water first used to make the beer.
Make it your own- This is a recipe designed for barrel aging and infusion, so add your own twist! I used bourbon barrel chips (a small handful is enough) soaked with bourbon for a couple of weeks and added to the beer on day 15, the replicates a barrel aged beer. Another twist I dried some coconut in the oven (this is to removesome of the oil, affects head retention) soaked with some dark rum also on day 15. You could add coffee, I’ve haven’t tried this get but a small amount, cold brewed coffee added after fermentation or added just before bottling seems a popular choice from research I’ve done. You could also add fruit- cherries, dates, berries. A rule of thumb for whatever you choose- don’t add too much, you just want a twist, and whatever you choose, Google it, someone’s probably done it before and learn from their experimentation.
Bottling- Use a priming sugar calculator as it will adjust to the sugar your using, you should end up with about a 4L batch as the yeast cake is quite big, I used 27g of brown sugar. Because it’s such a rich beer, and your brewing a small amount, try to use smaller bottles like 330ml or 500ml so you sample at different ages. Finally, have some patience, the longer it ages the better, 3 months minimum.
I call this one “The Havana” (the one with coconut soaked in Cuban dark rum) 😋